It’s December in the mountains of North Carolina. The air is cool and crisp. The Grove Park Inn’s Christmas season is in full swing. The grand lobby becomes a cozy, holiday haven, with guests enjoying the wooden rocking chairs in front of the stone fireplace and the light sound of holiday jazz played by the live musicians in the corner. But as you explore the seemingly endless hallways of the very old hotel (with a cup of hot cocoa in hand, of course), the aroma of gingerbread fills the air. Every year, the Grove Park Inn hosts the National Gingerbread House Competition. These are far from the little all-you-need-included kits you buy at the grocery store. They are confectionery masterpieces!
They are also never far from my mind at Christmas. Growing up in Asheville, I spent many December days and nights getting lost in the intricacies of these creations. It was, by far, one of my favorite things about the whole city. And it was always in the back of my head… a little whisper… I could do that. Wouldn’t it be fun to submit an entry?
Fast forward a handful of years. I hadn’t been back to Asheville in years. Hadn’t seen the gingerbread houses. My family had moved away (and broken). It’s crazy how easily bitterness crept in, just by association. My heart had become hardened and something that was once so dear to me was now part of a place I associated with bad memories.
Earlier this year I felt a stir in my heart. Wouldn’t it be fun to go back? To actually enter the competition like I’ve always wanted. But WHY? Why would I want to spend hours, weeks, or even months working on a project that was nothing more than a decorative display? For fun? Could there be anything that was a bigger waste of time?? Sure, there’s prize money and media attention. Why is that, though? OH RIGHT… because this is something SERIOUS, PROFESSIONAL, TALENTED people do. Not me. Not a stay-at-home mom with no formal training. All I have is a desire to enter this competition. I would be fulfilling a silly childhood dream.
Another little whisper in my heart… Maybe God could somehow use something like this.
I decided to be brave and go with the whispers this year. The competition is two weeks away and my heart is bubbling over with excitement! Here’s what I’ve learned about having enough courage to follow the quiet whispers and desires in your heart:
- God uses everything! He promised He would. I didn’t realize I had such bitterness in my heart. This project has made me so excited to go back. The bitter feelings are melting away. God can redeem anything.
- God has a funny way of putting just the right people in our lives at just the right time. I’m pretty sure He smiles when we figure this one out. I have some pretty great people I’ve had a chance to work with through this project. One of them was a woman I hardly knew at all. Now that friendship is one of the things I’m most thankful for this year. Few things in life are as sweet as a timely gift from God. In this case, it’s a friendship.
- You don’t have to win to win! Yes, this is a competition and it would be really great to win, but that’s no longer the goal. In my world, I’ve already won. It’s in the people I’ve met, the changes in my heart, and the fun I’ve had learning, testing baking ideas, and being creative. (The road trip is the icing on the cake!) We have a very creative God and He created us in His image. Our creativity is a gift from Him and we should absolutely use it!
Two weeks! I feel like a little kid counting down the days to Christmas and I love it! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that wonder. There’s something about fulfilling a childhood dream (especially at Christmas!) that makes my heart dance. And I’m able to enjoy that feeling… because I’ve already won.
This post was written by one of our Radiant Writers: Katie Hicks
Written & Delivered by Danny Thomas
I lay God’s plans before me in plain sight.
I follow this process every time:
I make a new move,
and through my stubbornness
I make the same mistakes;
follow his methods until they got too daring
and when the fear strikes me,
I pivot and alter a step in his plan.
I find comfort in my stagnation,
there is no courage,
no challenge of fear,
Even when he gives an order and I hesitate,
God repeats with mercy.
What beast has God asked us to fight
that he knew we could not conquer?
We are righteously prepared
with weapons not of this world,
but weapons that yield divine power,
built for the destruction of obstactles that find themselves before us.
David cast his stone in confidence
to fulfill a victory that had been set before him.
A promise made by God,
is already a promise fulfillled.
We have the hands that rebuilt Jerusalem.
We hold the sling.
We cast the smooth stone.
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,
you can move mountains before you,
and nothing will be impossible.
To believe a conflict is resolved,
to wholeheartedly trust that a beast will be conquered,
is to conquer.
So I ask you,
do you trust?
Do you believe?
Would you blindly walk the path laid for you,
trusting that every brick is in place,
that every weed and obstruction has been cleared?
Will you take the steps as the ocean parts?
Will you trust that manna will fall from
the heavens in your time of need?
Do you trust?
I challenge you to go out in the world,
to proclaim the gospel in every direction,
from your mouth,
to two more,
to four more,
and to be delighted in your sharing.
Second Timothy; chapter 4, verse 2 tells us:
“Preach the word; be ready in season
and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, and exhort,
with complete patience and teaching.”
With faith, what you share during your handshake
can be exchanged through two-hundred more.
Your voice matters.
Your voice is instrumental.
Time stretched out before us like an endless sandy beach. It was the last week of school, and summer was just around the corner. My husband and I had planned some day camps for our 10-year-old daughter, Lucy, yet we also wanted to make sure she had plenty of loose, unstructured days. Still, I thought we could make time for some spiritual development.
“What if you hosted a ‘Girls’ Bible Study’ this summer?” I suggested. She thought it over for about a week, then agreed it was a good idea. It was at that point I realized something: I loved the idea, but I was afraid to actually follow through.
What if Lucy’s friends think the study is boring? What if we say something wrong about God? What if we “mess up” Jesus for them? Apparently Lucy wasn’t concerned about any of these terrifying possibilities.
I was feeling a little like Moses when God called to him from the burning bush, giving Moses his charge to free the Israelites (Exodus 3:11-4:17). Moses went from an initial response of “I am here” to a whiny “Send someone else,” citing his poor speaking as an excuse. God didn’t let Moses off the hook, but He did allow Moses to enlist his brother, Aaron, as his “mouthpiece,” or spokesperson. Was Lucy going to be my mouthpiece for this study?
“You’re invited to GBS!” Lucy designed the invitation in colorful fonts. Toward the top she wrote: “Leader: Lucy Davis. Co-Leader: Katy Davis.” Wait a minute, I’m the mom; shouldn’t I be in charge? But Lucy definitely wanted to run the show, adding, “You can help if you want, Mom.” And so I humbly accepted the role of support staff, assisting Lucy with writing the weekly memory verse cards, and fetching the girls lemonade and snacks.
Lucy suggested we invite one particular friend who doesn’t attend our church, and I wondered if she would even want to come. We decided to ask anyway.
The big day. Three of the six friends we invited were able to come—including the girl I had doubts about. God is so good! This friend confided to me when she arrived: “Mrs. Davis, when I think about God, I think about death, and that scares me.” Wow! What to say to that? Holy Spirit to the rescue. He gave me these words: “Sweetie, the more you learn about God, the more you’ll see He is all about life.”
Hmm. Maybe this bravery thing was catching. Maybe Lucy was my courage role model and the Holy Spirit was was my real “mouthpiece.”
The study went on, and the girls were consistent in showing up. (We used Jen Rawson’s Becoming a Young Woman of God, an 8-week curriculum geared toward middle-schoolers.) As I watched my daughter guide the girls through each lesson, I saw her calm confidence. When her friends became too chatty, she got them back on track. At night I listened as she prayed out loud for each of them. Toward the end, Lucy’s excitement about preparing for the study started to wane. But she hung in there.
And so did I. Maybe I even learned something from my fearless little leader.
This post was written by one of our Radiant Writers: Katy Davis.
Wonder Woman. She-Hulk. Batgirl. These are just a few of the fierce women superheroes that I used to dream of becoming as a little girl. They were heroic, gutsy, and strong. They were fearless and brave. They embodied all of the characteristics that the introverted, fearful little girl in me was not.
Not only was I timid and awkward, I lived in fear much of the time. My thoughts were consumed with fear of what others would think, fear that I wouldn’t measure up, or fear of what the future might bring. While living in a posture of fear was not always easy, it was usually safe and comfortable. I would often choose not to take a risk because I feared what the outcome would be.
Then I encountered Christ.
I began to see that the problem with fear-based living is that “…God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). As I grew more dependent on Christ and more sensitive to the promptings of His Spirit within me, I began to feel more and more that He was asking me to do things that I was not comfortable with. I often felt prompted to take risks. The question was: would I be willing and brave enough to take them?
The word risk might conjure up images of moving to a third-world country or even camping out Mother Teresa-style at our local homeless shelter. And those types of risks are worthy endeavors. But I am not Mother Teresa, so the types of risks God started asking me to take included much more ordinary things such as talking to my co-worker about Christ or being vulnerable in sharing my struggles.
Being brave is not often made up of grand, superhero-type displays. Sometimes being brave is simply being willing to give a ride across the city even if it’s an inconvenient. That is what being brave was for me on this particular day. For two weeks I passed the same woman standing at a public bus stop on the way home from dropping my kids off at school. For two weeks I noticed her waiting for the bus, rain or shine, and I felt a nudge in my heart that I was to stop and offer her a ride. For two weeks, I talked myself out of stopping.
I didn’t know her at all and I was fearful. I must be nuts, I thought. Is God really asking me to do this? I could think of ten different reasons not to stop. Primarily, my little girl was in the backseat and people can be crazy and dangerous. But every school day for two weeks I would pass her and I felt a Spirit-nudge to pick her up.
I finally surrendered and hesitantly said, “Okay, God, I’ll stop!” Although I was doubting myself and my ability to discern God’s guidance, I pulled up anyway and offered her a ride. She seemed surprised but she hopped in. We talked on the way to her destination and she explained that she was on her way to the community center to study for the GED. She was only 7 points away from passing the test. What an honor that God might use me and my privilege to help provide her free transportation as she worked toward this accomplishment. I continued to give her rides the days when I saw her at the bus stop and I looked forward to our short chats on the way to the center. I enjoyed our chats so much that I began to forget I was driving her to a dangerous part of town. I will never forget the day this woman shared her son’s name with me. It was in that moment, the moment she told me that his name was Messiah King, that I knew with all my heart God had indeed nudged me to stop and pick her up. But this wasn’t about me or even her. This was clearly about God. This was about His mission and His story and His purpose. I was just thankful that I was brave enough to be a part of it that day.
What I learned from Messiah King’s mother is that being brave doesn’t mean that I will be fearless. Sometimes being brave simply means that I will choose to act in faith anyway. I will choose to respond to the voice of the Spirit within me and not the voice of fear. I can act with bravery not because I have no fear or because I am guaranteed a safe and good outcome, but I can act with bravery because the Holy Spirit of bravery and power lives in me.
This post was written by one of our Radiant Writers: Gina Fimbel.
I remember packing my suitcase and wondering if I had lost my mind. I wondered if I had really heard God correctly. Months before, I was confident that my next step was to go on a short term mission trip to Ethiopia, but when the week of departure arrived I wondered if I had made a mistake. I wondered because I was afraid. I had never been on a mission trip, nor traveled to another country where I didn’t speak their language. I was nervous.
I was excited and drawn to the trip because it was a group of women going to serve women. But as I was packing my suitcase that night, I began to second guess myself and my decision. I began to wonder if I had heard God correctly. I began to be afraid and started thinking, “What if I get sick? What if I get there and I am of no help? What if this doesn’t go well? What if I get hurt? What if I get lost? What if they ask me something and I don’t have an answer?” And the list goes on.
It was in those questions of “what ifs” that I had to come face to face with my trust and faith in the Lord. It is in that trust that I found my courage.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I knew that I needed to put my trust in the Lord and not the “what ifs” of my fearful mind. I was assured by the passage above that even with all of my fears God would be with me, just as He was with Joshua. That if I was in the midst of talking to someone and didn’t have answers, He would be there. If I got sick, He would be there. If I got hurt, He would be there. Whatever my “what ifs” were, God would be there. He would never leave me nor forsake me.
I finished packing my suitcase, and I continued on my journey to Ethiopia. To this day, precious memories fill my mind from that trip. Memories of conversations about God and his faithfulness over popcorn and coffee (one of their favorite combos). Memories of meeting women who at one time had no hope, lived day to day in fear of how they would make ends meet, and who felt unloved and unworthy. Memories of those same women finding the Lord. Although separated by miles, different cultures, and different languages, we found that our hearts were similar. We rejoiced that through Christ our Savior we were not strangers in a foreign land, but sisters sharing brave stories of God and His faithfulness.
I am so grateful I made that trip. I grew closer to the team of women I journeyed with and met amazing new women as well. I learned that no matter where we live, we women are basically the same. We have areas where our struggles look different, but our heart issues are the same. We all fear. We all desire to be loved. We all want to know that we matter.
I was brave enough to exchange my “what ifs” for “what for”; that is, for the opportunity to follow and trust the God I love.
This post was written by one of our Radiant Writers: Lisa Stikeleather.